new york city kid in arkansas
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I just finished playing the role of a mother described as “manic with grief” in TheatreSquared’s production of Sarah Delappe’s play THE WOLVES. Playing “Soccer Mom” was a strange and wonderful gift, and working at my favorite theatre with my favorite director in my favorite town certainly made these last seven weeks filled with gratitude (and exhaustion). March was the month of many special visitors – Jeni from Illinois, Shannon from Austin, Dusty from California and Natalie from New York – all while I worked on a super-size production of “Seussical” at The New School with my co-teacher extraordinaire Sam. The result of this crazy schedule was some of the most satisfying nights of sleep I’ve ever had, and once while driving home from a full day of work followed by a mid-week show I found myself thinking, “Oh, good. I get to do that thing where I shut my eyes in bed.”

Playing a mom is easy since I am one and have one. Playing grief is easy these days, too.

My mom was diagnosed with dementia last fall, right after her brother (my Uncle Ronnie) died unexpectedly. This weekend my sisters and I will join together in our hometown to help my dad move her into an assisted living facility and this new chapter in their lives, which has arrived much more rapidly than anyone expected. My sisters took the brunt of the hard work beginning in mid-February while I stayed here rehearsing, performing and waiting on text updates and phone calls, and I’m so thankful I’m not an only child. (Sorry, Huck.)

Last night I talked to my mom on the phone about my upcoming visit and her new home, and toward the end she began calling me Shannon. In her confusion, she mistook me for my best friend, someone we’ve both known and loved for many years, someone who has been down this road before with her own mother. It was such a strange and beautiful thing that I put my free hand over my open mouth as if  in a state of shock as I listened to her from hundreds of miles away.

By the time we said goodbye I was Janelle again.

(Update: The move was canceled and my mom is doing well living at home.)

Wesley Hitt, Photographer
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These photos I’ve chosen for Huck’s 14th birthday blog are misleading. A) It takes a lot of convincing and/or bribing to get him to take a walk with us these days, B) He’s slightly crouching down so as not to appear so tall next to me, and C) They were taken last month when he was merely 13. His fanny pack full of Lifesavers, Bandaids, lip balm, snacks and water bottle are all very true to who he is. Also true: he is a perfectionist, a grammar geek, a tea lover, a rule follower, a vegetarian and an introvert. He loves the music of St. Vincent, Dodie, Gorillaz and Pomplamoose and the humor of “Steven Universe” and “The Office.” He’s sensitive, smart, gangly, awkward and prone to nosebleeds. He dislikes hot weather, trying on clothes and nature. He’s organized, anxious, sweet and can talk for several minutes without pausing. He always has a few books he’s reading with a pile waiting. He loves essential oils, candles, ASMR, pens, origami, rainbow flags and hygge. He has a handful of close friends who make him happy, and he loves his teachers. He’s a musician, mathematician and knitter. For Lent, he’s giving up paper towels and snacks between meals.

Happy Birthday to our one-of-a-kind!

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Huck spent last week in Florida with several very close friends, a favorite teacher and over 50 other eighth graders from the two Fayetteville public junior highs. This was the 29th annual GT trip to Epcot, and all the other Disney parks plus Busch Gardens, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure where Harry Potter lives. Huck was very much outside his comfort zone – leaving us for five nights and six days, flying on airplanes without us to keep track of boarding passes, sleeping in a hotel room with boys his age, managing his hard-won $220 spending money from candy bar sales, being the only kid scared to ride roller coasters, and not once getting his preferred nine hours of sleep. But mostly leaving us for five nights and six days.

(I blame attachment parenting. All that co-sleeping, baby-wearing, breastfeeding business from 2005-2007.)

Thankfully, in the midst of discomfort and sleep deprivation, over 1000 photos and videos were taken on Huck’s trusty iPhone, proving that quite a lot of fun was actually had. His highlights, based on the many writing prompts he had to do back at the hotel each night before bed, include a butterbeer at Hogsmeade, Magic Kingdom fireworks, their ’50s themed Pop Century hotel, pizza at Epcot’s Italy (thanks to cousin Heather’s suggestion), the sky ride high above Busch Gardens, the Hogwarts train, dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, and the teacup ride (because we did that with Shannon at Disneyland nearly eight years ago).

Meanwhile to pass the time without him, Troy and I binge watched “Killing Eve” on Hulu, saw a couple plays and a locally shot independent film, gave Sunny some walks at Huck’s least favorite places, stayed out past our bedtime on a school night, and only ran the dishwasher once. I also spent most of my spare time reading Huck’s hundreds of texts, most of which included colorful heart emojis and the words “I love you SO much!”

On Huck’s last day in Orlando, he was the first to wake up in his room. After doing all his morning bathroom rituals, including getting dressed for the day, he decided he’d better wake up his roommates. Thankfully, he checked his phone to see what time it was first, and upon discovering it was somehow only 11:58pm, he awkwardly climbed back into his bed fully dressed and slept until 6:00. Twenty-four hours later, we joined the other well-rested parents at the airport at midnight to take home our tired travelers. Huck’s body finally gave in to the sickness it had been resisting, and he spent the weekend mostly sleeping and chugging water. In between naps, he showed us his souvenirs and pile of receipts, leftover money, his hotel room key bracelet, the pink paper cone that once held butterbeer ice cream from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, his hour-long slide show of pictures and anecdotes, his GT journal, and a Mickey & Minnie DisneyWorld Christmas ornament to join our honeymoon Mickey and Minnie ornament from 1992.

I love him SO much!